The East-West Schism Several centuries ago, many Europeans during the eleventh century witnessed one of the biggest controversies that the Church had ever experienced in Church history. This is notoriously known as the East-West Schism, or sometimes known as the Great Schism, which officially occurred in 1054 and led to the complete division of the state church of the Roman Empire with the excommunication of popes and other such problems.
Though, this rupture between the Eastern and Western Churches did not happen instantaneously.Tensions developed long before the actual schism occurred. Even prior to Christianity being the official religion of the Roman Empire, tensions between the Eastern and Western sections arose, which essentially caused tensions between the Eastern and Western Churches to rise as well.
Many events transpired prior to the Great Schism and after the Great Schism, including the problems that took root preceding the schism, problems that led up to the schism, and problems that were birthed from the schism.Dissimilarities between the two different Churches long before the actual Great Schism occurred that caused tensions to increasingly erupt. The Eastern Church held onto its Hellenistic traditions and its Greek ideals whereas the Western Church had to face several changes in language choice due to its broad spectrum of diversity within it. The Romans, Irish, English, French, and Germans were main contenders that significantly altered the Western Church because of the diverse cultures spread throughout each nation.Another difference that occurred was each side’s recognition of the status of the pope and the emperor over the entire empire, which took root deep into the minds of the individuals living during the time, later significantly affecting the Eastern Church. These problems about distances and differences of ideas and cultures instigated the split that overcame the Eastern and Western Churches.
With the Roman Empire deteriorating bit by bit, there seemed like no hope could be found between the two sections. A few controversies surfaced during the eleventh century that proved to be detrimental to the Church.One controversy was the filioque controversy. Filioque was a Latin term that meant, “and from the Son. ” This controversy dealt with the Western Church’s decision to insert an extension to the phrase “from the Father,” from the bishops’ at the Council of Nicaea conclusion that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Western Church felt it appropriate and more definitively correct to add on the to phrase to make the teaching more clearer.
Emperor Charlemagne approved the addition as well as the pope at the time. Though, the Eastern Church rose in fury at the idea of the change as well as the change being done without their consent.The filioque controversy weakened the relationship between the two churches. Another controversy that occurred was the iconoclast controversy, which dealt with the use of icons in worship. The Eastern emperor Leo the Isaurian forbade the use of icons in worship, for he sought it as a form of idolatry. The patriarch of Constantinople agreed with his rational, though the Pope disagreed with it. Leo the Isaurian’s intervention in religious matters brought about another problem that occurred following the Great Schism. These problems, the filioque controversy and the iconoclast controversy, shattered the relations between the two.
A scar that will forever remind history of the East-West Schism is the birth of separate branches of the Eastern Church. Many Eastern Churches decided not to be in union with Rome, which later took the name as Orthodox Churches. However, some Eastern Churches accepted the pope’s rule over the entire Church and these churches became known as Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
The split of the Eastern Church was determined by the role of the pope in the empire, whether he had jurisdiction over secular matters and religious matters or only one of the two.